The Bill of Rights, a Status Report
                              by Eric Postpischil

                                4 September 1990

                           6 Hamlett Drive, Apt. 17
                              Nashua, NH  03062


           How many rights do you have?  You should check, because it
           might not be as many today as it was a few years ago, or
           even a few months ago.  Some people I talk to are not
           concerned that police will execute a search warrant without
           knocking or that they set up roadblocks and stop and
           interrogate innocent citizens.  They do not regard these as
           great infringements on their rights.  But when you put
           current events together, there is information that may be
           surprising to people who have not yet been concerned:  The
           amount of the Bill of Rights that is under attack is

           Let's take a look at the Bill of Rights and see which
           aspects are being pushed on or threatened.  The point here
           is not the degree of each attack or its rightness or
           wrongness, but the sheer number of rights that are under

                                  Amendment I

                Congress shall make no law respecting an
                establishment of religion, or prohibiting the
                free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom
                of speech, or of the press; or the right of the
                people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the
                Government for a redress of grievances.

           ESTABLISHING RELIGION:  While campaigning for his first
           term, George Bush said "I don't know that atheists should
           be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered
           patriots."  Bush has not retracted, commented on, or
           clarified this statement, in spite of requests to do so. 
           According to Bush, this is one nation under God.  And
           apparently if you are not within Bush's religious beliefs,
           you are not a citizen.  Federal, state, and local
           governments also promote a particular religion (or,
           occasionally, religions) by spending public money on
           religious displays.

           FREE EXERCISE OF RELIGION:  Robert Newmeyer and Glenn
           Braunstein were jailed in 1988 for refusing to stand in
           respect for a judge.  Braunstein says the tradition of
           rising in court started decades ago when judges entered
           carrying Bibles.  Since judges no longer carry Bibles,
           Braunstein says there is no reason to stand -- and his
           Bible tells him to honor no other God.  For this religious
           practice, Newmeyer and Braunstein were jailed and are now

           FREE SPEECH:  We find that technology has given the
           government an excuse to interfere with free speech. 
           Claiming that radio frequencies are a limited resource, the
           government tells broadcasters what to say (such as news and
           public and local service programming) and what not to say
           (obscenity, as defined by the Federal Communications
           Commission [FCC]).  The FCC is investigating Boston PBS
           station WGBH-TV for broadcasting photographs from the
           Mapplethorpe exhibit.

           FREE SPEECH:  There are also laws to limit political
           statements and contributions to political activities.  In
           1985, the Michigan Chamber of Commerce wanted to take out
           an advertisement supporting a candidate in the state house
           of representatives.  But a 1976 Michigan law prohibits a
           corporation from using its general treasury funds to make
           independent expenditures in a political campaign.  In
           March, the Supreme Court upheld that law.  According to
           dissenting Justice Kennedy, it is now a felony in Michigan
           for the Sierra Club, the American Civil Liberties Union, or
           the Chamber of Commerce to advise the public how a
           candidate voted on issues of urgent concern to their

           FREE PRESS:  As in speech, technology has provided another
           excuse for government intrusion in the press.  If you
           distribute a magazine electronically and do not print
           copies, the government doesn't consider you a press and
           does not give you the same protections courts have extended
           to printed news.  The equipment used to publish Phrack, a
           worldwide electronic magazine about phones and hacking, was
           confiscated after publishing a document copied from a Bell
           South computer entitled "A Bell South Standard Practice
           (BSP) 660-225-104SV Control Office Administration of
           Enhanced 911 Services for Special Services and Major
           Account Centers, March, 1988."  All of the information in
           this document was publicly available from Bell South in
           other documents.  The government has not alleged that the
           publisher of Phrack, Craig Neidorf, was involved with or
           participated in the copying of the document.  Also, the
           person who copied this document from telephone company
           computers placed a copy on a bulletin board run by Rich
           Andrews.  Andrews forwarded a copy to AT&T officials and
           cooperated with authorities fully.  In return, the Secret
           Service (SS) confiscated Andrews' computer along with all
           the mail and data that were on it.  Andrews was not charged
           with any crime.

           FREE PRESS:  In another incident that would be comical if
           it were not true, on March 1 the SS ransacked the offices
           of Steve Jackson Games (SJG); irreparably damaged property;
           and confiscated three computers, two laser printers,
           several hard disks, and many boxes of paper and floppy
           disks.  The target of the SS operation was to seize all
           copies of a game of fiction called GURPS Cyberpunk.  The
           Cyberpunk game contains fictitious break-ins in a
           futuristic world, with no technical information of actual
           use with real computers, nor is it played on computers. 
           The SS never filed any charges against SJG but still
           refused to return confiscated property.

           PEACEABLE ASSEMBLY:  The right to assemble peaceably is no
           longer free -- you have to get a permit.  Even that is not
           enough; some officials have to be sued before they realize
           their reasons for denying a permit are not Constitutional.

           PEACEABLE ASSEMBLY:  In Alexandria, Virginia, there is a
           law that prohibits people from loitering for more than
           seven minutes and exchanging small objects.  Punishment is
           two years in jail.  Consider the scene in jail:  "What'd
           you do?"  "I was waiting at a bus stop and gave a guy a
           cigarette."  This is not an impossible occurrence:  In
           Pittsburgh, Eugene Tyler, 15, has been ordered away from
           bus stops by police officers.  Sherman Jones, also 15, was
           accosted with a police officer's hands around his neck
           after putting the last bit of pizza crust into his mouth.
           The police suspected him of hiding drugs.

           PETITION FOR REDRESS OF GRIEVANCES:  Rounding out the
           attacks on the first amendment, there is a sword hanging
           over the right to petition for redress of grievances. 
           House Resolution 4079, the National Drug and Crime
           Emergency Act, tries to "modify" the right to habeas
           corpus.  It sets time limits on the right of people in
           custody to petition for redress and also limits the courts
           in which such an appeal may be heard.

                                  Amendment II

                A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the
                security of a free State, the right of the people
                to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

           RIGHT TO BEAR ARMS:  This amendment is so commonly
           challenged that the movement has its own name:  gun
           control.  Legislation banning various types of weapons is
           supported with the claim that the weapons are not for
           "legitimate" sporting purposes.  This is a perversion of
           the right to bear arms for two reasons.  First, the basis
           of freedom is not that permission to do legitimate things
           is granted to the people, but rather that the government is
           empowered to do a limited number of legitimate things --
           everything else people are free to do; they do not need to
           justify their choices.  Second, should the need for defense
           arise, it will not be hordes of deer that the security of a
           free state needs to be defended from.  Defense would be
           needed against humans, whether external invaders or
           internal oppressors.  It is an unfortunate fact of life
           that the guns that would be needed to defend the security
           of a state are guns to attack people, not guns for sporting

           Firearms regulations also empower local officials, such as
           police chiefs, to grant or deny permits.  This results in
           towns where only friends of people in the right places are
           granted permits, or towns where women are generally denied
           the right to carry a weapon for self-defense.

                                 Amendment III

                No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered
                in any house, without the consent of the Owner,
                nor in time of war, but in a manner to be
                prescribed by law.

           QUARTERING SOLDIERS:  This amendment is fairly clean so
           far, but it is not entirely safe.  Recently, 200 troops in
           camouflage dress with M-16s and helicopters swept through
           Kings Ridge National Forest in Humboldt County, California. 
           In the process of searching for marijuana plants for four
           days, soldiers assaulted people on private land with M-16s
           and barred them from their own property.  This might not be
           a direct hit on the third amendment, but the disregard for
           private property is uncomfortably close.

                                  Amendment IV

                The right of the people to be secure in their
                persons, houses, papers and effects, against
                unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be
                violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon
                probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation,
                and particularly describing the place to be
                searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

           is making a mockery of the right to be secure from seizure. 
           Entire stores of books or videotapes have been confiscated
           based upon the presence of some sexually explicit items. 
           Bars, restaurants, or houses are taken from the owners
           because employees or tenants sold drugs.  In Volusia
           County, Florida, Sheriff Robert Vogel and his officers stop
           automobiles for contrived violations.  If large amounts of
           cash are found, the police confiscate it on the PRESUMPTION
           that it is drug money -- even if there is no other evidence
           and no charges are filed against the car's occupants.  The
           victims can get their money back only if they prove the
           money was obtained legally.  One couple got their money
           back by proving it was an insurance settlement.  Two other
           men who tried to get their two thousand dollars back were
           denied by the Florida courts.
           into effect in Oklahoma on January 1, 1991. All property,
           real and personal, is taxable, and citizens are required to
           list all their personal property for tax assessors,
           including household furniture, gold and silver plate,
           musical instruments, watches, jewelry, and personal,
           private, or professional libraries.  If a citizen refuses
           to list their property or is suspected of not listing
           something, the law directs the assessor to visit and enter
           the premises, getting a search warrant if necessary.  Being
           required to tell the state everything you own is not being
           secure in one's home and effects.
           BY OATH OR AFFIRMATION:  As a supporting oath or
           affirmation, reports of anonymous informants are accepted.
           This practice has been condoned by the Supreme Court.

           PERSONS OR THINGS TO BE SEIZED:  Today's warrants do not
           particularly describe the things to be seized -- they list
           things that might be present.  For example, if police are
           making a drug raid, they will list weapons as things to be
           searched for and seized.  This is done not because the
           police know of any weapons and can particularly describe
           them, but because they allege people with drugs often have

           Both of the above apply to the warrant the Hudson, New
           Hampshire, police used when they broke down Bruce Lavoie's
           door at 5 a.m. with guns drawn and shot and killed him. 
           The warrant claimed information from an anonymous
           informant, and it said, among other things, that guns were
           to be seized.  The mention of guns in the warrant was used
           as reason to enter with guns drawn.  Bruce Lavoie had no
           guns.  Bruce Lavoie was not secure from unreasonable search
           and seizure -- nor is anybody else.

           Other infringements on the fourth amendment include
           roadblocks and the Boston Police detention of people based
           on colors they are wearing (supposedly indicating gang
           membership).  And in Pittsburgh again, Eugene Tyler was
           once searched because he was wearing sweat pants and a
           plaid shirt -- police told him they heard many drug dealers
           at that time were wearing sweat pants and plaid shirts.

                                  Amendment V

                No person shall be held to answer for a capital,
                or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a
                presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except
                in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or
                in the Militia, when in actual service in time of
                War or public danger; nor shall any person be
                subject to the same offence to be twice put in
                jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled
                in any criminal case to be a witness against
                himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or
                property, without due process of law; nor shall
                private property be taken for public use without
                just compensation.

           INDICTMENT OF A GRAND JURY:  Kevin Bjornson has been
           proprietor of Hydro-Tech for nearly a decade and is a
           leading authority on hydroponic technology and cultivation. 
           On October 26, 1989, both locations of Hydro-Tech were
           raided by the Drug Enforcement Administration.  National
           Drug Control Policy Director William Bennett has declared
           that some indoor lighting and hydroponic equipment is
           purchased by marijuana growers, so retailers and
           wholesalers of such equipment are drug profiteers and
           co-conspirators.  Bjornson was not charged with any crime,
           nor subpoenaed, issued a warrant, or arrested.  No illegal
           substances were found on his premises.  Federal officials
           were unable to convince grand juries to indict Bjornson. 
           By February, they had called scores of witnesses and
           recalled many two or three times, but none of the grand
           juries they convened decided there was reason to criminally
           prosecute Bjornson.  In spite of that, as of March, his
           bank accounts were still frozen and none of the inventories
           or records had been returned.  Grand juries refused to
           indict Bjornson, but the government is still penalizing

           TWICE PUT IN JEOPARDY OF LIFE OR LIMB:  Members of the
           McMartin family in California have been tried two or three
           times for child abuse.  Anthony Barnaby was tried for
           murder (without evidence linking him to the crime) three
           times before New Hampshire let him go.

           was forced to testify against himself.  Congress granted
           him immunity from having anything he said to them being
           used as evidence against him, and then they required him to
           talk.  After he did so, what he said was used to find other
           evidence which was used against him.  The courts also play
           games where you can be required to testify against yourself
           if you testify at all.

           Central Park assault case, three people were found guilty
           of assault.  But there was no physical evidence linking
           them to the crime; semen did not match any of the
           defendants.  The only evidence the state had was
           confessions.  To obtain these confessions, the police
           questioned a 15-year old without a parent present -- which
           is illegal under New York state law.  Police also refused
           to let the subject's Big Brother, an attorney for the
           Federal government, see him during questioning.  Police
           screamed "You better tell us what we want to hear and
           cooperate or you are going to jail," at 14-year-old Antron
           McCray, according to Bobby McCray, his father.  Antron
           McCray "confessed" after his father told him to, so that
           police would release him.  These people were coerced into
           bearing witness against themselves, and those confessions
           were used to convict them.

           Census questions are required by law, with a $100 penalty
           for each question not answered.  But people have been
           evicted for giving honest Census answers.  According to the
           General Accounting Office, one of the most frequent ways
           city governments use census information is to detect
           illegal two-family dwellings.  This has happened in
           Montgomery County, Maryland; Pullman, Washington; and Long
           Island, New York.  The August 8, 1989, Wall Street Journal
           reports this and other ways Census answers have been used
           against the answerers.
           being required from more and more people, even when there
           is no probable cause, no accident, and no suspicion of drug
           use.  Requiring people to take drug tests compels them to
           provide evidence against themselves.
           OF LAW:  This clause is violated on each of the items life,
           liberty, and property.  Incidents including such violations
           are described elsewhere in this article.  Here are two
           more:  On March 26, 1987, in Jeffersontown, Kentucky,
           Jeffrey Miles was killed by police officer John Rucker, who
           was looking for a suspected drug dealer.  Rucker had been
           sent to the wrong house; Miles was not wanted by police. 
           He received no due process.  In Detroit, $4,834 was seized
           from a grocery store after dogs detected traces of cocaine
           on three one-dollar bills in a cash register.
           COMPENSATION:  RICO is shredding this aspect of the Bill of
           Rights.  The money confiscated by Sheriff Vogel goes
           directly into Vogel's budget; it is not regulated by the
           legislature.  Federal and local governments seize and
           auction boats, buildings, and other property.  Under RICO,
           the government is seizing property without due process. 
           The victims are required to prove not only that they are
           not guilty of a crime, but that they are entitled to their
           property.  Otherwise, the government auctions off the
           property and keeps the proceeds.

                                  Amendment VI

                In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall
                enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by
                an impartial jury of the State and district
                wherein the crime shall have been committed,
                which district shall have been previously
                ascertained by law, and to be informed of the
                nature and cause of the accusation; to be
                confronted with the witnesses against him; to
                have compulsory process for obtaining Witnesses
                in his favor, and to have the assistance of
                counsel for his defence.
           THE RIGHT TO A SPEEDY AND PUBLIC TRIAL:  Surprisingly, the
           right to a public trial is under attack.  When Marion Barry
           was being tried, the prosecution attempted to bar Louis
           Farrakhan and George Stallings from the gallery.  This
           request was based on an allegation that they would send
           silent and "impermissible messages" to the jurors.  The
           judge initially granted this request.  One might argue that
           the whole point of a public trial is to send a message to
           all the participants:  The message is that the public is
           watching; the trial had better be fair.
           BY AN IMPARTIAL JURY:  The government does not even honor
           the right to trial by an impartial jury.  US District Judge
           Edward Rafeedie is investigating improper influence on
           jurors by US marshals in the Enrique Camarena case.  US
           marshals apparently illegally communicated with jurors
           during deliberations.
           COMMITTED:  This is incredible, but Manuel Noriega is being
           tried so far away from the place where he is alleged to
           have committed crimes that the United States had to invade
           another country and overturn a government to get him.  Nor
           is this a unique occurrence; in a matter separate from the
           Camarena case, Judge Rafeedie was asked to dismiss charges
           against Mexican gynecologist Dr. Humberto Alvarez Machain
           on the grounds that the doctor was illegally abducted from
           his Guadalajara office in April and turned over to US

           Steve Jackson Games, nearly put out of business by the raid
           described previously, has been stonewalled by the SS.  "For
           the past month or so these guys have been insisting the
           book wasn't the target of the raid, but they don't say what
           the target was, or why they were critical of the book, or
           why they won't give it back," Steve Jackson says.  "They
           have repeatedly denied we're targets but don't explain why
           we've been made victims."  Attorneys for SJG tried to find
           out the basis for the search warrant that led to the raid
           on SJG.  But the application for that warrant was sealed by
           order of the court and remained sealed at last report, in
           July.  Not only has the SS taken property and nearly
           destroyed a publisher, it will not even explain the nature
           and cause of the accusations that led to the raid.

           are beginning to play fast and loose with the right to
           confront witnesses.  Watch out for anonymous witnesses and
           videotaped testimony.

           Reagan resisted submitting to subpoena and answering
           questions about Irangate, claiming matters of national
           security and executive privilege.  A judge had to dismiss
           some charges against Irangate participants because the
           government refused to provide information subpoenaed by the
           defendants.  And one wonders if the government would go
           to the same lengths to obtain witnesses for Manuel Noriega
           as it did to capture him.

           TO HAVE THE ASSISTANCE OF COUNSEL:  The right to assistance
           of counsel took a hit recently.  Connecticut Judge Joseph
           Sylvester is refusing to assign public defenders to people
           ACCUSED of drug-related crimes, including drunk driving.

           TO HAVE THE ASSISTANCE OF COUNSEL:  RICO is also affecting
           the right to have the assistance of counsel.  The
           government confiscates the money of an accused person,
           which leaves them unable to hire attorneys.  The IRS has
           served summonses nationwide to defense attorneys, demanding
           the names of clients who paid cash for fees exceeding

                                 Amendment VII

                In Suits at common law, where the value in
                controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the
                right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no
                fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise
                reexamined in any Court of the United States,
                than according to the rules of common law.

           simple right; so far the government has not felt threatened
           by it and has not made attacks on it that I am aware of. 
           This is our only remaining safe haven in the Bill of Rights.

                                 Amendment VIII

                Excessive bail shall not be required, nor
                excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual
                punishments inflicted.

           EXCESSIVE BAIL AND FINES:  Tallahatchie County in
           Mississippi charges ten dollars a day to each person who
           spends time in the jail, regardless of the length of stay
           or the outcome of their trial.  This means innocent people
           are forced to pay.  Marvin Willis was stuck in jail for 90
           days trying to raise $2,500 bail on an assault charge.  But
           after he made that bail, he was kept imprisoned because he
           could not pay the $900 rent Tallahatchie demanded.  Nine
           former inmates are suing the county for this practice.

           CRUEL AND UNUSUAL PUNISHMENTS:  House Resolution 4079
           sticks its nose in here too:  "... a Federal court shall
           not hold prison or jail crowding unconstitutional under the
           eighth amendment except to the extent that an individual
           plaintiff inmate proves that the crowding causes the
           infliction of cruel and unusual punishment of that

           CRUEL AND UNUSUAL PUNISHMENTS:  A life sentence for selling
           a quarter of a gram of cocaine for $20 -- that is what
           Ricky Isom was sentenced to in February in Cobb County,
           Georgia.  It was Isom's second conviction in two years, and
           state law imposes a mandatory sentence.  Even the judge
           pronouncing the sentence thinks it is cruel; Judge Tom
           Cauthorn expressed grave reservations before sentencing
           Isom and Douglas Rucks (convicted of selling 3.5 grams of
           cocaine in a separate but similar case).  Judge Cauthorn
           called the sentences "Draconian."

                                  Amendment IX

                The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain
                rights, shall not be construed to deny or
                disparage others retained by the people.

           OTHER RIGHTS RETAINED BY THE PEOPLE:  This amendment is so
           weak today that I will ask not what infringements there are
           on it but rather what exercise of it exists at all?  What
           law can you appeal to a court to find you not guilty of
           violating because the law denies a right retained by you?

                                  Amendment X

                The powers not delegated to the United States by
                the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the
                States, are reserved to the States respectively,
                or to the people.

           amendment is also weak, although it is not so nonexistent
           as the ninth amendment.  But few states set their own speed
           limits or drinking age limits.  Today, we mostly think of
           this country as the -- singular -- United States, rather
           than a collection of states.  This concentration of power
           detaches laws from the desires of people -- and even of
           states.  House Resolution 4079 crops up again here -- it
           uses financial incentives to get states to set specific
           penalties for certain crimes.  Making their own laws
           certainly must be considered a right of the states, and
           this right is being infringed upon.

           Out of ten amendments, nine are under attack, most of them
           under multiple attacks of different natures, and some of
           them under a barrage.  If this much of the Bill of Rights
           is threatened, how can you be sure your rights are safe?  A
           right has to be there when you need it.  Like insurance,
           you cannot afford to wait until you need it and then set
           about procuring it or ensuring it is available.  Assurance
           must be made in advance.

           The bottom line here is that your rights are not safe.  You
           do not know when one of your rights will be violated.  A
           number of rights protect accused persons, and you may think
           it is not important to protect the rights of criminals. 
           But if a right is not there for people accused of crimes,
           it will not be there when you need it.  With the Bill of
           Rights in the sad condition described above, nobody can be
           confident they will be able to exercise the rights to which
           they are justly entitled.  To preserve our rights for
           ourselves in the future, we must defend them for everybody